The WHO publishes new evidence of the damage caused by pollution to global health in the most complete database available to date, which includes 6,000 cities
The World Health Organization (WHO) has adjusted its parameters for monitoring the quality of the air that the world population breathes. To offer more accurate conclusions about how pollution really affects the health of citizens, it has included in its measurements for the first time the levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles of less than 10 microns (PM10). And their conclusions are not good.
After obtaining data from 6,000 cities and human settlements spread around the planet, the aforementioned organization concludes that practically all of the world’s citizens (99%) “breathe air that exceeds the WHO quality limits and threatens their health.” This data comes a year after the organization recalculated the limits to be stricter, according to its point of view, as an “effort to help countries better assess the healthiness of their own air.”
In this context of concern, in addition to including the aforementioned new parameters for the first time, the record of monitored cities has been broken. The aforementioned 6,000, belonging to 117 countries. In virtually all of them, people inhale “unhealthy” levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, although experts note in their report that people in low- and middle-income countries experience the highest exposures.
More damage to global health
However, what has been made public today is the most extensive database to date on exposure to air pollution and evidence, as reported by the WHO in a note, that the damage that air pollution causes to the body has grown rapidly and points to significant damage caused by even low levels of many of the pollutants.
Regarding the new parameters included in the measurements, the experts warn that suspended particles, especially PM2.5, are capable of penetrating the lungs and from there passing into the bloodstream, “causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory impacts.” Also, they insist, there is evidence that the particles impact other organs, causing other diseases.
Regarding nitrogen dioxide, it is associated with respiratory diseases, especially asthma, which results in symptoms such as cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing.
María Neira, director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health of the WHO, valued the data very negatively. “After surviving a pandemic,” she said, “it is unacceptable to still have 7 million preventable deaths and countless preventable years of good health lost due to air pollution. That’s what we say when we look at the mountain of data, evidence and solutions available on air pollution. Yet too much is still being invested in a polluted environment rather than clean, healthy air.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.